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OSO Update: Monday, March 31, 2014 1:17 PM


Photo Courtesy: Google Images

Inslee seeks major disaster declaration for Oso

DARRINGTON, Wash. -- Gov. Jay Inslee has requested that President Obama make a major disaster declaration for Snohomish County in order to bring more federal resources to the Oso landslide. That's in addition to funds and services already approved by Obama last week.

The new request asks for disaster grants to pay for things not normally covered by insurance, disaster-related unemployment insurance, and crisis counseling.

A specialized team from the Colorado National Guard has arrived in Oso. Their job is to support coroners by helping locate, remove and process bodies.

The number of confirmed dead in the March 22 slide is at 21, said Jason Biermann, program manager at the Snohomish County Department of Emergency Management. Another four bodies were found Sunday, but they won't be added to the official count until the medical examiner receives them. Biermann said 30 people remain missing.

The guard says these missions are difficult and sensitive, but they've been training for a year for these types of disasters and want to help.

Related: Remembering those lost

"We start early and we work as long as we can based on the resources we have. But it's not just about the National Guard. It's about all the responders, the police officers, the firefighters, the search and rescue, the community. It's a strong community and I'm proud to be here and I'm thankful I was called. We're here to help," said Technical Sgt. Joseph Neville, Colorado National Guard.

Crews have cleared a path through the muck and devastation wrought by Washington's deadly mudslide, making the painstaking search for victims easier.

The makeshift road completed over the weekend links one side of the 300-acre debris field to the other. Crews have also been working to clear mud and debris from the highway, leaving piles of gooey muck, splintered wood and housing insulation on the sides of the road.Searchers have had to contend with treacherous conditions, including household chemicals, septic tanks, gasoline and propane containers. When rescuers and dogs leave the site, they are hosed off by hazardous materials crews.

"We're worried about dysentery, we're worried about tetanus, we're worried about contamination," said Lt. Richard Burke of the Bellevue Fire Department. "The last thing we want to do is take any of these contaminants out of here and take them into town."

A 24-hour crisis line has been set up for anyone feeling grief who needs to talk to someone: 800-584-3578.

If you have been affected by the slide and need help please email Jesse Jones:

The slide dammed up the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, causing water to pool up on the east side. The river cut a new channel through the mud, but rain has raised the water level nearly a foot, said Kris Rietmann, a spokeswoman for the team working on the eastern portion of the slide.

Photo Courtesy: Google Images

In at least one place, the water level got so high that it covered areas that have already been searched, said Tim Pierce, leader of Washington Task Force 1, a search-and-rescue team.

Searchers should get some relief with mainly dry weather forecast Monday through Wednesday in western Washington.

In addition to searching for people, searchers are also collecting personal items like photos or scrapbooks. They're being decontaminated and put in a safe place where they could be distributed to their rightful owners.

KING 5's Teresa Yuan and Jake Whittenberg contributed to thie report.

by JONATHAN J. COOPER and LISA BAUMANN / Associated Press and KING 5 News


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